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Slaves sentenced to death for killing master

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Slaves on Roman mosaic
Slaves sentenced to death for killing master

In ancient Rome, slave revolts were so feared that a law was introduced whereby if a slave kills his master, he will be punished with no death penalty. only he, but also all the slaves residing in the house of the deceased owner.

This also applied to slaves, whom the owner granted freedom in his will. This was the case, for example, during the reign of Emperor Nero. In 61 CE a slave stabbed the then city prefect Lucius Pedanius Secundus. The reason for the murder was probably that the master seized the private property of the slave – a certain sum of money which the slave collected to buy himself out of slavery. While everything that belonged to a slave was the property of his master, it was customary for slaves to accumulate such sums. Despite protests of some of the Roman people and senators, about 400 people, including women and children, were executed by the decision of the senate (led by Gaius Cassius Longinus).

To secure the place of execution, Nero gathered an army that separated the convicts from the crowd.

  • Tacitus, Annales, XIV 42–45

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